J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Another Reason to Send Your Child to a Less Affluent School


A while back I wrote about why we chose to send our daughter to an under-performing, high-poverty public school in our neighborhood. Basically, a high rate of parental involvement and good teachers allayed any fears we had regarding low test scores (the concept of relative rank¹ was also a factor). Our daughter is now thriving in first grade, both academically and socially. School standards are high, and PTO fundraising has helped develop programs in art, poetry, and science (ideally tax dollars would pay for these things, but California schools are still struggling financially).

Yet Another Reason to Avoid the Affluent Schools

Recently Kia forwarded me this article which points out that vaccine opt-out rates in California have been on the rise for the past seven years. This had resulted in both measles and whooping cough epidemics. Research clearly showed that higher vaccine refusal rates fueled the epidemics.

Why are parents opting out? Fears linking vaccines to autism is the most likely reason, even though such research has been completely refuted. We still don’t know definitely what is behind rising autism rates in the U.S. (rates vary significantly by state). SSRI use during pregnancy is one possible factor, though a Danish study noted that depression itself is a risk factor, and that there was no difference in autism rates of children born to depressed mothers who had been taking SSRIs and those who had not. It’s also possible that more children are being classified as being on the autistic spectrum — a change in diagnostic trends. Bottom line, we still don’t definitively know. But vaccine avoidance isn’t helping anything, and is having devastating effects on herd immunity.

What’s herd immunity (or community immunity)? If your child is vaccinated, they’re safe against that disease, right? Unfortunately not. While being vaccinated reduces the chance of infection if a child is exposed to a disease agent, an additional benefit come from not being exposed in the first place. In other words, the protective effects of vaccines are cumulative, depending on what percentage of the kids are vaccinated.

Notably, wealthier communities, and wealthier schools within those communities, tend to have higher vaccination opt-out rates via the “PBE” (personal belief exemption). Marin county, the wealthiest county in the Bay Area, had an average 8% PBE opt-out rate (San Geronimo Valley Elementary in Marin had a whopping 79% PBE rate). Private schools also have higher PBE rates than public schools (on average).

Less affluent public schools (like our daughter’s school), tend to have a PBE rate of only 1%. Now there’s some community immunity!

Does Affluenza = Influenza?

Not all wealthy communities have high PBE rates. The San Francisco average is quite low (1.64%). Maybe Marin County, the land of crystal healers and psychics, just has lower scientific literacy.

Vaccines are not entirely risk-free. [CDC.gov] But in terms of cost-benefit analysis, the tiny risk of most vaccines is worth the protective effect against the disease. Just as importantly, you’re not only protecting your own child, but your child’s classmates.

If you’re considering NOT vaccinating your child, I can empathize. I considered it too — there are scary stories out there on the internet, real (but rare) cases of children being injured by vaccines. But please ALSO consider the risks of the diseases themselves, and check the published research in terms of the actual probability of serious injury. It’s far more probable a vaccination will save your child’s life than cause them any harm.


¹ On relative rank … sending your child to a school comprised mostly of elites can negatively warp their confidence and self-worth. If most of your child’s classmates are richer, smarter, more socially connected, more sophisticated, and/or more competitively oriented, your normal or above-average-under-normal-circumstances child might end up feeling a bit beaten down. Relative rank matters. On the other hand, if your child’s school is comprised of a more diverse cross-section of society, it’s more likely they’ll get a chance to shine in at least one area.



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  1. Great post!

    Just before I read this I heard an NPR interview with Eula Biss about her new book, “On Immunity: An Inoculation,” which looks like a really interesting exploration of the personal, medical, social, cultural, and class issues around vaccination. (http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/09/30/351242264/vaccine-controversies-are-as-social-as-they-are-medical). She made an interesting point that trying to find a middle ground can be misleading, since that casts proponents of vaccination as holding an extreme position.

    (And anyway, what does “underperforming” mean, and who decides.)

    • Thanks!

      Re: Eula Biss — sounds similar to pressure on news media to present a “balanced view” on issues like evolution, climate change, or gravity. 😉

      In this post I meant underperforming in terms of school test scores compared to state averages (I get into a bit more detail in the original post). http://jdmoyer.com/2013/10/29/why-im-sending-my-child-to-an-underperforming-public-school/

      • I think I was trying to be ironic in a shorthand way about the usual definition of “underperforming” in a school context. You say it so well in your first article–that the advantages of privilege don’t evaporate if a child attends an underperforming school. I also question the metrics that lead to the definition of underperforming: test scores vs. other less quantifiable factors. But I digress…

        • Yes, absolutely. In terms of the less quantifiable factors, there’s a wonderful comment from Cheryl Holland just posted to that original post — long but very much worth the read.

  2. Eileen

    Is this article about underperfroming schools and vaccines? If so, I fail to see
    the connection. Can you elaborate?

    • Less affluent schools (which often have lower test scores) also tend to have higher vaccination rates, thus offering more protection to the students that attend those schools via “herd immunity.”

  3. Aaron

    jd moyer, i love your writing and i agree with so many of your ramblings that i hate to disagree with your here. I wonder what your mbti type is — but given what i have seen written i would think an istj. let me know how far off i am 🙂 but even though i scold the fact that i went to one of the top high schools in the country with a gpa of a little over 3 out of 4 that put me in the bottom 35% of my class. The experience was better than college. And while I never finished my degree the stuff i learned for the first 2 years at a decent state school like university of iliinois at chicago was not even really branching my knowledge out further just shows that if u have a good high school it helps with an overall ability to understand things

  4. Aaron

    thanks for reply, there are a lot of people who have a well developed S that are Ns but im positive your results are close to 50 50 for s/n i know you have Intuitive abilities for sure

  5. culturedsf

    Glad I don’t have to make these kind of decisions. No kids. When I think back to my youth. I know I was less vaccinated than kids are today. I may have gotten vacs as a baby I don’t know about but I never had another vac until 1st grade. It was just one. It looked like a round pincushion on my arm. I got mumps as a kid but nothing else. I wonder if the herd immunity is really so great. I wonder if all the different vaccines they have now are really necessary like say for instance a vaccine for chicken pox. We didn’t have that one when I was growing up.
    I’m on the fence about vaccines because it seems like just a way to make $$ with too many being pushed now. I’ve never had a flu shot either. Only had the flu 2x in my life. I don’t think my immune system is exceptional, but I think it’s a natural immune system that is relatively untouched by modern vaccination protocols. I believe I’m healthier for it.

  6. I’m seeing some misinformation here.

    First, vaccines do not provide herd immunity. In order for herd immunity to be in effect, a high percentage of the population has to be immune. With vaccines, effectiveness up-front is not guaranteed, because it just doesn’t take for some people. After effective vaccination, protection wanes rapidly, which is why booster shots are required. Previously vaccinated adults do not typically get boosters, and are often not immune.

    When you look at an outbreak of a disease that is vaccinated against, the fully-vaccinated people frequently get sick. In the 2010 pertussis outbreak, 81% of the kids who got it were fully vaccinated on schedule, 11% had partial vaccinations, and 8% were unvaccinated. This is pretty typical, and basically shows that vaccination does not provide long-term protection, therefore does not provide herd immunity.

    Pertussis is a stealth bacteria; when someone is first infected, it fools the immune system into ignoring it. It creates a toxin called adenylate cyclase toxin (ACT) that turns off the innate immune system. A couple of weeks later, the immune system figures it out and goes to work to clear the infection. Vaccination teaches the immune system to respond to the bacteria itself, but not to recognize ACT, and actually prevents the immune system from ever picking up on ACT. This is why people vaccinated for pertussis can be asymptomatic carriers, and (I presume) it can lead to chronic low-level inflammation from pertussis in vaccinated people.

    So, the most dangerous person to have around a new-born infant in terms of pertussis is someone who is vaccinated — they can spread the disease without any symptoms. Someone who is not vaccinated will have a short period where they are shedding bacteria and are infectious without symptoms, but will be symptomatic for most of the time they are infectious. All 10 of the deaths in 2010 were of infants less than 3 months old. Without vaccination, some of them might still be with us.

    Secondly, vaccination takes away one of the best protections an infant can have: a breastfeeding mom who has permanent protection because she had the illness as a child. Moms who have had measles pass on immunity through their breast milk. Moms who were vaccinated do not.

    The information on vaccines is manipulated by the CDC to make them appear safe. The CDC will not put out any study information that shows vaccines to be harmful, and will manipulate statistics and hide information as needed. See

    review/108522744/186711a23b for example — this is a video explaining what a recent CDC whistle-blower revealed, that the CDC simply omitted key information about MMR and autism, when they couldn’t manipulate the statistics to make it appear neutral.

    Coming full circle to the article you cited, it is a brilliant example of lies, damn lies, and statistics. It seems to show that people who are not vaccinated for pertussis are focal points for the outbreak. Please get the article from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/09/24/peds.2013-0878.abstract, and look at figure 1. It shows larges areas of non-vaccinating clusters with no pertussis outbreak, and large areas of pertussis where there were no exemption clusters. The relationship they found is a real statistic, but doesn’t mean anything in terms of why the outbreak occurred (outbreaks occur every 3-5 years regardless of vaccination). Of course, two of the authors have consulting relationships with the pharmaceutical business. I’m sure they are still laughing over the press response, which totally misunderstood the meaning of this study.

    An excellent book on vaccines, the best I’ve read, is Dissolving Illusions. I hope everyone will read it before they decide whether or not to vaccinate their kids, or themselves.

    • From the article you cited: “Census tracts within an exemptions cluster were 2.5 times more likely to be in a pertussis cluster”

      The entire conclusion section reads:

      CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggest clustering of NMEs [non-medical exemptions] may have been 1 of several factors in the 2010 California pertussis resurgence.

      Vaccines don’t cause autism. The supposed link between the two was medical fraud. Thousands of kids are getting sick (from whooping cough and measles) because of this kind of misinformation.

  7. Like I said, lies, damn lies, and statistics. They did some clever math, that is all.

    Re: autism, I suggest you read The Age of Autism, quite an excellent book. There is a lot of evidence that vaccines are extremely harmful, if you just look for it.

  8. Ann

    wow, as tlundeen writes, I agree and am blown away by your posts and information, except this one.
    Why are you so entrenched in vaccines?
    Studies? tlundeen has a lot of information to share and I appreciated reading both his and yours.
    I have no links or validation, so if you don’t respect a lifetime of experience and reading, then move along, there’s nothing here.
    (Except some misspelling and grammatical errors that most likely will help to validate that my sharing is not acceptable input.)

    My family has a number of research phd’s and I know that studies can say whatever you want them to say. Some Research studies of the highest respected levels have been revealed to be fraudulent for one reason or another. Unless you research the “research” very deeply, no one really has a complete understanding of “the research”, even then there will be questions unanswered.
    What is a person to do when bombarded by all this information that comes with a purpose beyond the information?
    After all is said and done, one must use the best logic, common sense and intuition they have. Which is why I like your posts, you do this.
    My grandson was born on June 5, 2015. I did not know, so did not have the opportunity to intervene, that at birth the Hep B vaccine is administered. At birth!
    It does not take any “studies” to know that injecting anything directly into the blood system of a 5 to 10 lb. infant has to be bad.
    sidebar: When was the last hep B outbreak? That is a rhetorical question, no need to respond as I have read all of the “research” and “reasons” on both sides for and against. It’s a horrible error at best and genocide at worst.
    There must be follow up shots.
    CA just signed into law the vaccine mandate, FL is next. 69 vaccines are already mandated (by who by the way?) with over 220 in the pipeline (just quoting the major media here, did not research myself) and these “laws” cover those future mandated vaccines as well. Who is charged with deciding?
    the FDA (who claims they can’t do what they need to do now, yet have offices all over the globe) the CDC? The drug companies themselves? how about any or all? Makes no difference. There are none that are valid on the limited time frames allowed to vet the coming vaccines.
    Who are any of them to decide that the population of the world is better off with vaccines than clean water and sanitation? Going to Africa and injecting school children with vaccines in places where there are no infrastructure, clean water, sanitation, roads? There is a high correlation with these important sanitation advances and the lack of disease. I grew up in the 50’s. I had a friend who was in a wheel chair due to polio. She was a couple of years older than me. Her family never said if she had a vaccine or not, but the neighbor said she didn’t. I don’t know. (sidebar: My generation didn’t have many of the vaccines that were in place through 1989, before the dam broke and let in the other multitude of vaccines that have the most risk as they are little research in comparison to those before)
    Yet, her 8 brothers and sisters some older a couple younger, did not contract polio. I have traveled extensively in business and know thousands of people and have met casually thousands more.
    In my lifetime, I have met only 2 people with visible disabilities from polio.
    What does that prove? My intuition tells me that maybe what I have been told is not accurate.
    Beliefs play a large role in how we look at everything. And your beliefs on everything else you post about do not align with this post.
    You also say the pharm companies don’t make that much money from vaccines. You note that in low income areas vaccination rates are very high. But you failed to note that these people are in the “system” and get free medical, food support and more from the government that tells them to be afraid, be very afraid, of diseases that a third or more of the population all had growing up.
    I have personal experience with low income family recently. When I accompanied the young mother and infant to their doctor appointment, the mood and advice was very different than the mother had experienced on her last visit when just she and her infant went alone. The doctors/nurses had her extremely nervous that her nursing wasn’t enough for her baby. They told her that babies do lose weight after birth but his was much higher than normal (it wasn’t). On the visit right after this one, when I was with her, they called in the head nurse and said they had been too over careful and he would be fine nursing.
    Really? A quick switch would you say?
    maybe they saw someone who had experience and may ask a few questions that would reveal them?
    Money? You say is not at the root of vaccines, it’s at the root of everything.
    A woman stops nursing and they have to buy formula? These are woman on food stamps. And food stamps are limited in what they can buy. It’s decided by the issuers, that’s government.
    Who is the government, a bunch of elected officials who “legally” take money from the companies in many forms that make products. This group of elected officials, then get to dictate laws that tell you and me what to do. These laws are very effective with people on public assistance as they have little choice, little understanding health issues, and of economics and politics and they are thus more readily led. You have another post that is so good hearted on the obesity in America. Do you think there is a crossing here?
    Billions of vaccines and little profit, these companies are goodhearted aren’t they? Something is off kilter here.

  9. Ann

    Sorry, guess you will remove my comments. I just noticed that you withdrew from further discussion. I noticed this came right after tlundeen, offered his information.

    • Vaccination is a divisive topic. The benefits to widespread vaccination (massive reduction in the rates of many serious diseases) become invisible and taken for granted, but they are real. At the same time the medical establishment has not done a good job of “shooting straight” in terms of the very rare (but also real) risks of vaccination. I am for continued research, transparency, and mandatory vaccination in public schools for those vaccines where there is overwhelming evidence for benefit and extremely low risk. I realize many disagree. I will leave readers with this infographic:


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